The European-built Node-3 is the last of the three International Space Station Nodes to be launched into orbit. The Nodes are the connecting elements between the various pressurised modules on the ISS. They provide a shirtsleeve environment to allow the passage of astronauts and equipment through to other Station elements and provide vital functions and resources for the astronauts and equipment.
Node-3, or ‘Tranquility’ as it has now been named, is the final major element of the barter agreement between ESA and NASA under which ESA supplied Node-2 and -3 and high-technology laboratory equipment and services to NASA in return for launching Europe’s Columbus laboratory to the ISS in February 2008.
Node-3 is the most recent and thus the most modern pressurised element of the ISS. It is significantly different to the Node-3 that Europe initially agreed to develop back in 1997: it has evolved over the years from a connecting module into a complex element, able to accommodate sophisticated crew- and life-support equipment.
One of the new features is the Cupola observation module. It was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in 2004, and ownership was transferred to NASA in 2005. It will provide an unprecedented capability for external ISS operations as a command tower for robotic operations as well as a stunning view of Earth for the crew. Both Node-3 and Cupola will help in the efficient execution of ISS operations and provide the accommodation for facilities to improve the well-being of the crew.